Friday, March 10, 2017

Open Water is Just Around the Corner!

Collecting Maple sap
With some of the lakes around home already ice free, and the temperatures in the 60's last weekend, fishing was not in the cards.  I spent the weekend helping my friend John Matthews help rewire my sister -in-laws house as I figured he may have bit off more than he could chew! She lives in Hudson, WI so both Saturday and Sunday were spent pulling wires.  We must be at least 3 weeks ahead of what I would call a normal weather schedule as my neighbor Brandon Larsen is already been tapping the trees for maple syruping,  I have a couple of nice maples in my yard so I let him tap them and in return I get a nice bottle of homemade Maple Syrup which is exceptionally good!  The sap has been really flowing lately because of the warm days and nights below freezing, I have to believe that he has collected over 500 gallons to date from the neighbors and I.  Brandon also has an osmosis filter that essentially removes 1/2 the water when ran through the filter, making it so it does not take forever to boil off the water to get the syrup to the right stage.  Apparently he can run it through up to 4 times so 400 gallons of sap at 2% sugar content get reduced to  50 gallons at about 16%.  This saves boiling away 350 gallons of water in the original sap, a huge reduction in wood needed to fuel the boiler.  It still takes a fair amount of processing to get real Maple Syrup but the end product is definitely worth it!  Brandon has a large tray that is separated into a number of compartments.  By magic the finished syrup makes it's way to one end with a spigot and thermometer to monitor the whether it is ready.  For all practical purposes finished maple syrup boils at 219F give or take a few adjustments for altitude.  Once it hit that temperature it can be drawn off as syrup.  Brandon's neighbor Jake was over helping on Monday night as they were boiling and I stopped over.  We poured a little brandy into a cup then added some hot syrup from the spigot.....Uffda that was good, (not particularly good for my diabetes!)  One interesting thing the Brandon has been doing is finishing his syrup off in used bourbon barrels.  Het reheats the syrup then pours it in the barrel and let's it sit for 8 weeks.  the syrup picks up the bourbon flavor and it's pretty good.  The used barrels are expensive so he obviously gets more for it but it is definitely an interesting twist to his craft.

Wild Turkeys in the Garden
So this warm weather has me thinking about the garden this year.  I have quite a bit of work to do however I did order my onion sets from Dixondale Farms out of Texas again with my friend Andy.  They are great onions and much better than the ones one buys up north.  Onions are classified by Long Day, Moderate Day, and Short Day onions, a term that describes their bulbing properties.  Long day Onions need more than 15 hours of daylight to trigger them to start growing the onion.  It definitely makes a big difference as I get larger onions that last a lot longer.  One thing that has hung around my property this year has been wild Turkeys.  At some time there can be as many as 18 in a bunch and trust me, they can eat! If you look closely at the picture of them you will see a white bucket that I fill with corn. They can really clean it out and I am not sure who's worse.....the deer of the turkeys.  I compare them to a good vacuum cleaner as nothing in their path is safe.  If there is no more for them in the garden they will strut up to my deck and eat all the bird seed out of my ground feeder.  Never the less they are an impressive bird for sure and I am half tempted to enjoy a wild turkey dinner some day but that would not be the nicest thing to do and could end me up in trouble!

I have promised to take my friends the Grants out ice fishing this weekend, I am planning on heading up to the Battle Lake area and try for some crappies.  If there is any issue in walking out I have plan B, we will hit the outdoor stores of Scheels and Cabela's for David Grant, a new up and coming fisherman!  Hopefully I will have something to report next week.  I am definitely afraid this will probably be my last adventure on the ice for this year.  The next big trip is back to Naples for some great grouper fishing on March 26th.

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